Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ – Second Advent Sunday 2018: Peace

BLCF: Advent-web-bannerhope,peace,love,joy

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ

 – Second Advent Sunday 2018: Peace’

© December 9, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 9, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on December 6, 2015

Bulletin December 6, 2015

BLCF: Isaiah 9_6

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

   Lighting Second Advent Candle (Peace) – 1 Thessalonians 5:13b-23 (ESV):

BLCF: animation_candle_flame-free

13b  Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the idle,[a] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes: a. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Or disorderly, or undisciplined

Hymn #102: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus                                                     

Hymn #106: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing                                                                   

Hymn #117: Silent Night! Holy Night!                                                                  

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers  

Responsive Reading #614: Peace and Renewal (Micah 4 and 7)

Let us pray…

A few weeks ago, our Sunday lesson, included the Scripture’s account of the “Tower of Babel”, where a group of misguided people embarked on building a great tower towards heaven, so that they might raise themselves to the same level as the Lord, as well as to elevate their own personal status among other people throughout both the world and in history. The offense of embarking upon building an edifice to their own glory instead of to their Father in heaven was so misguided and offensive to Him, that they were stricken by God with a multitude of languages, for their multitude of sins. The language barrier was so great, that the people discontinued their work on the tower and the communication differences caused the people to disperse and be scattered into obscurity.

In Secondary school, I had a Latin teacher, who often used a favorite line “non-sensibus” to comment upon a student’s error in translating a paragraph to English from Latin or Vice-Versa. We are told that Scripture is both Divinely inspired and Spiritually discerned.

Still, we find throughout the Bible numerous examples of individuals and groups performing foolish actions based upon a poor understanding of the meaning of prophecies, Commandments, parables, and/or Covenants. Examples of such actions include: consuming forbidden fruit, building tower to access heaven, as well as many other examples of actions based upon a twisted understanding of God’s Word.

We see in today’s first Scripture verse, Micah 5:1-5 (ESV), we see, that contrary to common belief at the time, Christ Child, the newborn Messiah, shall arise from the humble town of Bethlehem, to bring an end to armies, sieges, wars, and violence, which are all sins and grievously offend God. Jesus will bring God’s Peace, justice and harmony to all the factions in and around Israel In a manner that will establish the security of peace by way of the power of the Lord. Let us review that Scripture:

       The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

BLCF: Micah_5_1-5

[a] Now muster your troops, O daughter[b] of troops;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
on the cheek.
2 [c] But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

Footnotes: a. Micah 5:1 Ch 4:14 in Hebrew b. Micah 5:1 That is, city . Micah 5:2 Ch 5:1 in Hebrew

There are many groups today who appear to have the misguided idea that the Father in heaven is somehow subject to the whims of extreme groups and that He can be manipulated into bringing the Final Judgement if they initiate a mighty conflict. This did not happen in either of the great World wars and will not happen in any of the pseudo-religious conflicts around the globe today. It did not work, either, in the Crusades of the middle ages.

What we do know is that Christ came humbly to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, not a mighty steed on in a chariot of conflict. Before his birth in a humble stable, his mother traveled to a census upon the back of a donkey and that the King of Kings was born in the stable with a cattle’s hay crib as a bed. Before dying on the cross for our sins, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in order to show that battles will only be won when God’s Word is taught with love and humility.

We see God promises to fulfill His New Covenant again to another generation’s prophet in our second Scripture verse, Haggai 2:1-9 (ESV):

The Coming Glory of the Temple

BLCF: Glory and Peace - Haggai_2_1-9

In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”

BLCF: Book-of-Haggai_2_1-9

 

For those of you who may have forgotten the New Covenant that the Lord promised, let us look at the third of today’s Scriptures, which pre-dates the other two, Isaiah 9:6 (ESV):

BLCF: Holy Trinity

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

This verse refers to the Godhead or Holy Trinity of our mighty God, Who as the Holy Spirit is a Wonderful Counselor; Who is the Maker, the Everlasting Father; and as Jesus our Savior, the Prince of Peace.

Let celebrate the first Advent of the Lord, which is marked by Jesus’ birth, where he came to fulfill the prophecy by his birth, his death, his resurrection, his ascension to heaven, and by his sending of the Holy Spirit to those who believe and accept him as Lord and Saviour.

Traditionally on Advent Sunday, we light candles, read scriptures, sing hymns, say prayers and praises to commemorate God’s gifts through His Son, Jesus.

We should also observe a second Advent or coming of the Lord, which has yet to take place, by partaking in Communion as a single Church or Body of Believers, as we do on the first Sunday of the month. In that spirit of His peace, I would like to read from Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV), which is found inside today’s bulletin, opposite the Order of Service:

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #121: O Little Town of Bethlehem                                                         

Benediction – (Philippians 4:7): 

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

BLCF: Come Lord Jesus Come

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Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ: First Advent Sunday 2018: Hope

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ:

‘First Advent Sunday 2018: Hope’

© December 2, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 2, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on November 22, 2015

BLCF Bulletin November 22, 2015

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #412: Just When I Need Him Jesus Is Near; Choruses                     

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                     

Responsive Reading #610: Christ in Prophecy (Isaiah 11 and 42, Jeremiah 23, Malachi 4)

Lighting of First Advent Candle (Hope)                                                                    

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, where on this glorious Sunday morning, we mark the beginning of Advent. We signify Advent’s arrival by lighting the first of four Advent candles. For our lesson today, entitled: Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love in Christ – First Advent Sunday: Hope’, we begin by understanding the significance of the events described in the Bible, which combine to cover the arrival of people, things, and events that comprise what we refer today as Advent.

First, let us look at some definition of terms regarding Advent. For this we shall check our Wikibits:

ad·vent ˈadˌvent/noun

noun: advent; plural noun: advents

  1. the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.

E.g. “the advent of television”

synonyms: arrival, appearance, emergence, materialization, occurrence, dawn, birth, rise, development; More

approach, coming

“the advent of a new school year”

antonyms: disappearance
  • the first season of the Christian church year, leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays.

noun: Advent

  • Christian Theology; the coming or second coming of Christ.

noun: Advent

https://www.google.ca/search?q=advent+definition&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&gws_rd=cr&ei=_gRbVobdA8O9eZb4tNgF

The Advent season marks the beginning of the Christian year in western Christianity. Its length varies from 22 to 28 days, beginning on the Sunday nearest St Andrew’s Day and encompassing the next three Sundays, ending on Christmas Day. St Andrew was born in Bethesda on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and was the younger brother of St Peter. Both he and his brother became disciples of Jesus. He is said to have died bound to an “X” shaped cross at Patras in Achea in Greece. This shape is now reflected in the Scottish flag, known as the Saltire. St Andrew has been recognized as the patron saint of Scotland since at least the ninth century. St Andrew’s Day falls on November 30, according to many Christian churches. St Andrew’s Day is a bank holiday in Scotland. However, the bank holiday falls on Monday, December 1 or 2 if November 30 is a Saturday or Sunday.

The church year begins in September 1 in many eastern Christian churches, so Advent starts at a different time to when it starts in the western churches. The eastern equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast, which runs for 40 days.

Background

It is uncertain as to when exactly the celebration of Advent was first introduced in the Christian church. Some sources say that Advent began on November 11 (St Martin’s Day) at some time in the fifth century in the form of a six-week fast leading to Christmas. Advent was reduced to its current length at some stage in the sixth century and the fasting was later no longer observed. Advent is originally a time to reflect and prepare for Christmas similarly to how Lent is in preparation for Easter. Advent has sometimes been referred to as the Winter Lent.  In recent times the restrictions that Advent brings to Christians have become more relaxed.

Symbols

Purple is historically the main color used for Advent because it reflects penitence, fasting, and the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the king (Jesus Christ). The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his first Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Some churches use other colors in recent times. For example, some churches mark the third Sunday of Advent with pink or rose, colors that represent joy. Many Protestant churches use blue to distinguish the Season of Advent from Lent.

Advent wreaths are symbolic of Advent in some countries. They are usually made of fir and decorated with gold and silver ribbons or scarlet woolen threads. Lit wreaths may be displayed on the table where family and friends sit while singing carols and preparing handmade gifts.

http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/canada/first-day-advent

We have in our first Scripture Verse, Isaiah 11:1-10 (ESV), the prophecy of the Advent of the arrival of the “shoot from the stump of Jesse”, a descendant of Jesse, the father of King David:

         The Righteous Reign of the Branch

11 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

Our second Scripture Verse, Jeremiah 33:14-16 (ESV), where the Lord describes the prophecy in terms of the Advent of a fulfillment of His Eternal Covenant:

The Lord’s Eternal Covenant with David

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

And in our third Scripture, Romans 15:12 (ESV), the Apostle Paul, indicates the significance for believers today, and for all generations, of the Advent of Christ:

 12 And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

We find that in Advent, not just the anticipation of the birth of Christ, and the “Good News” that our Lord brought to humanity: salvation by way of the cross, sanctification through the Holy Spirit, and the hope in the promise of eternal life.

Advent describes the events of the arrival of travelers: a nation of Chosen People, to a Chosen Land, to receive a Chosen or Anointed Saviour. In their travels, the people travel in and out of bondage, to Egypt, the wilderness, and to land that was promised.

We also see the arrival of the Magi or Wise Men, who reveal that Christ’s arrival was also significant to the Gentiles, as well as to the people of Israel.

We see the arrival of shepherds, who come to see the arrival of Jesus, to signify that Christ arrived for the benefit of both, the high and meek, alike.

We see the advent of angels, who are sent to inform Mary and Joseph of the arrival of a child, who is both son of man and Son of God. Angels had arrived to announce to the shepherds the arrival of the Christ child. We observe the advent of angels who warned both the Magi and Joseph and Mary of King Herod’s plot to kill the child, Jesus. And by lighting a candle today, we mark the advent of a star over a manger in Bethlehem, to signify the arrival of the “Light of the World,” that is the advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus, the living Christ.

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #626: The Last Supper (- from Mark 14)

Closing Hymn #100: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 

A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

© November 25, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin November 25, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #263: Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door; Choruses                           

Prayer Requests and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Prayers                                                                                                                         

Responsive Reading #610: Christ in Prophecy (- from Isaiah 11 and 42, Jeremiah 23, and Malachi 4)                                                                                                  

Message by Steve Mickelson: A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service for the last Sunday in November, also the last Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent. So, it would not surprise you that today’s lesson is entitled: A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas.For the record, here is the definition of a preamble:

Preamble – pre·am·ble /ˈprēˌambəl/ noun

Definition: preliminary or preparatory statement; an introduction.

 E.g. “what she said was by way of a preamble”

Then you may ask about the Cicada. This is the little insect which lays dormant in the pupa stage for a period of thirteen or seventeen years, (depending on the variety), only to emerge as an adult which generates a loud buzzing noise (up to 106 dB)  as a mating call.

Amazing Cicada Life Cycle | Sir David Attenborough | BBC – Youtube

Both Christmas and Easter are holy days to Christians, preceded by Advent and Lent, respectively. And it seems during both Advent and lent, we see the emergence of bashers of the faith and of Christ Jesus, emerging out of dormancy like noisy Cicadas. Like the Cicada, the Christian bashers make a lot of noise, expending much effort, challenging our faith, often using arguments which make sense only to themselves and fellow Christian bashers. When Christmas and Easter have passed, the cacophony ends, as these bashers seem, like the Cicadas, go dormant. Sadly, unlike the Cicada, Christian bashers do not go dormant for 13-17 years, but only as long as the advent next Christian holy day. My apologies to the Cicadas as at least their irritating noise serves a purpose, as a mating call to other Cicadas.

So let us endeavor to ignore the Christian bashers and focus on dispelling some of the myths perpetuated by those who do not have faith in believing the Gospel of Christ, Jesus. Both the devil and these opponents to the Christian faith, work hard at trying to create doubt in both seekers and believers in Jesus.

This is not surprising, as you may recall from last week’s lesson, that Jesus’ disciples had doubts about the identity of who is their Lord. You may recall that after Jesus calmed the storm on the sea, the disciples had questioned who was this man who could command the stormy sea and winds to stop. It was only after witnessing Jesus walking on the water, leading Peter to do the same, and again commanding a second storm to calm, that the disciples recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Considering the initial doubts of his disciples regarding his identity, it is not surprising that the neighbours and relatives who had not witnessed the Lord’s miracles had expressed the same doubts with respect to the identity of Jesus, as we read in the gospel of Mark 6:1-6 (ESV):

 Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

 6 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

Modern day Christian bashers try to cast doubt on the identity of Jesus, by claiming that the Genealogy of Jesus recorded in the gospel of Matthew 1:1-17 seem that recorded in the gospel of Luke 3:23-38. Rather than post the two genealogies of Jesus in today’s BLCF Bulletin, I have included a chart showing the same information (below):

Two Genealogies of Jesus: 

Matthew 1:1-17 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Joseph)                             Luke 3:23-38 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Mary)

 Luke 3:23-38 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,[a]the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 3:27 Greek Salathiel

Matthew 1:1-17 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[b] and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah,and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[c] and Amos the father of Josiah,11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,[d] and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:3 Greek Aram; also verse 4 b. Matthew 1:7 Asaph is probably an alternate spelling of Asa; some manuscripts Asa; also verse 8 c. Matthew 1:10 Amos is probably an alternate spelling of Amon; some manuscripts Amon; twice in this verse d. Matthew 1:12 Greek Salathiel; twice in this verse

In one of the genealogy trees, from Matthew’s gospel, indicates that Joseph as a descendant of David. The other genealogy, from Luke’s gospel, has been attributed by many scholars as showing the lineage of Mary, as being trace from David.

It should be noted that through her marriage to Joseph, Mary enters her husband’s family and therefore both she and her son Jesus legally become members of the House of David. You may recall that the skeptics of the identity of Jesus in Mark 6:1-6 were apparently unaware that while Jesus and his siblings shared Mary as their mother, the siblings father was Joseph, while Jesus’ was the Son of God, as we see in the gospel of Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV):

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

Our faith in Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and the Lord’s Gospel account of why he died, on the cross, his resurrection from the grave, his ascension to heaven, and his gifting of the Holy Spirit to those who believe appear as foolishness to those who are without the Spirit. Who knows why they seem so motivated to challenge the Christian faith by selectively choosing Scriptures used out of context, twisting the Bible to make an argument, not unlike the scribes and Pharisees in the time Jesus walked on the earth. These skeptics demonstrate their ignorance, by demanding that Christians put the Lord to the test. The birth of the Christ or Messiah has already been ordained by God’s miracle or sign described in Isaiah 7:10-14 (ESV):

 The Sign of Immanuel

The prophecy was written: Between 701-681 BC
The prophecy was fulfilled: About 5 BC – Jesus is born

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your[a] God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he[b] said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.[c] 

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 7:11 The Hebrew for you and your is singular in verses 11 b. Isaiah 7:13 That is, Isaiah c. Isaiah 7:14 Immanuel means God is with us

To close our lesson today, I would like to remind you that just as Mary and her son, Jesus became members of the House of David, through her marriage to Joseph, all who are baptized into Christ by faith become part of His Church by faith and are considered offspring of Abraham, entitled as God’s beloved children, as indicated in Galatians 3:27-29 (ESV), which happens to be our Benediction today:

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #208: There’s a Church within Us, O Lord                                                                                                              

Benediction – (Galatians 3:27-29 ): For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Sleeping through the Storm, Safely with the Peace of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Sleeping through the Storm, Safely with the Peace of the Lord’

© November 18, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 18, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                   

Opening Hymn #84: Come and Praise the Lord Our King (Tune of Michael Row the Boat Ashore); Choruses                                                                                                   

Prayer Requests and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Prayers                                                                                                                   

Responsive Reading #603: Divine Providence (- from Psalm 34)                         

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘Sleeping Safely through the Storm, Calmed by the Peace of the Lord’

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service at BLCF Church, where our lesson will examine two of the Jesus miracles performed in order to prove to his disciples his identity as the Son of God. Both miracles occurred as the disciples struggled to overcome wind-generated storms on the Sea of Galilee in order to reach their appointed destination. However, as we shall see, as often happens in the Scriptures, the lessons taught from journey are more important than the destination. One example would be Saul’s conversion experience while he journeyed on the Road to Damascus.

I would like to present the first miracle for today’s lesson, from three points of view found in the Synoptic Gospels, each bearing the common title of Jesus Calms a Storm, while mostly contain the same elements, do have some slight variances. This is what one might expect from three different points of view telling what they observed of a common event. The first example comes from the gospel of Matthew 8:23-27 (ESV):

Jesus Calms a Storm

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Matthew gives an account where Jesus goes aboard a boat, followed by the disciples. While Jesus is sleeping, a great storm comes upon the vessel. Fearing for their lives, the disciples wake the Lord, asking him to save them from harm. Jesus asks them why do they fear and then rebukes them for their lack of faith. Having rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith, Jesus then rebukes the wins and the sea. The resulting change from a great storm to a great calm prompts the disciples to ask what sort of man is their Lord, who is able to change the wind and the sea by the mere words of his commands?

Our second account of this miracle of the Lord comes from the gospel of Mark 4:35-41 (ESV):

 Jesus Calms a Storm

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Mark’s account gives us additional information from Matthew’s gospel. We learn that it is evening when the disciples join Jesus aboard a boat to cross Sea of Galilee. Though we also learn the group sails in the boat, leaving behind a crowd. It seems that some of the crowd decided to follow the boat containing Jesus and the disciples, as we learn that other boats were with him. Mark gives additional details, indicating Jesus was at the stern of the boat, where had fallen asleep on a cushion. Mark indicates that Jesus rebukes the storm and then his disciples, where Matthew has the order reversed. It could be because Mark felt the Lord rebuking the sea was more significant than his personal rebuke of the disciples. We also learn that this miracle which prompted the disciples to question the identity of their Lord came out of fear, at least from Mark’s point of view.

Now let us look at Luke’s take on these events, taken from the gospel of Luke 8:22-25 (ESV):

Jesus Calms a Storm

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Luke’s account of events is more succinct, but we learn that the storm came as they fell asleep. It seems that Jesus was not the only disciple who had fallen asleep, which might explain the brevity of Luke’s account. As Jesus and Luke slumbered, perhaps Matthew and Mark kept watch, giving a possible explanation for the latter two’s more lengthy and detailed description of events. While Luke agrees with Mark that the disciples experienced fear at witnessing this miracle over nature, the former indicates that he marveled at the events.

All three Synoptic accounts end with the disciples questioning the identity of the man whom they follow and call their Lord.

This leads us to the second miracle involving the disciples aboard a boat in a stormy sea. Only this time Jesus has sent his disciples ahead of him, while he dismissed the crowd, and later went up a mountain to pray alone. Let us look at the account of events found in the gospel of Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV):

 Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way[a] from the land,[b] beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night[c] he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[d]he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 14:24 Greek many stadia, a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters b. Matthew 14:24 Some manuscripts was out on the sea c. Matthew 14:25 That is, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. d. Matthew 14:30 Some manuscripts strong wind

Similar to Ontario’s Lake Nippising, near North Bay, the Sea of Galilee’s dimensions and orientation makes it a prime candidate to sudden unpredictable storms caused by the prevailing winds. Needless to say, I am sure that Jesus, having been blest with the Holy Spirit, and by virtue of being the Divine Alpha and Omega, (beginning and end), knew that the disciples would encounter a storm on their journey.

So why did He allow them to go in the boat without Him? And why did He wait so long before joining them?

Do not forget that Jesus wanted to go up the mountain to pray. As Christians, we need to take time to pray, to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, in order to clear our slate of thoughts, actions, and feelings which distance us from God.

Jesus was a good teacher not only to the multitudes but to the twelve who followed him. The journey from Heptapegon, also known as Tabgha, el-Oreme or ‘En Sheva to Bethesda was about seven miles distance and would have taken the disciples maximum of 3-4 hours under normal conditions. Because of extreme headwinds and waves, the disciples’ boat had covered only half the distance in about 12 hours’ time or about 1/6 of the normal rate of travel.

There is no doubt that Jesus knew about the challenges his disciples were encountering, but he allowed them to go for some time before he set out to tread across the sea. Until Jesus arrived, the disciples had to work persistently and together to keep their boat on course, against the storm. The disciples would need the same persistence and cooperation, in the not too distant future, to share the Gospel to people who knew nothing of God, or worse, had drifted away from God in the pursuit of a religion devoid of the Holy Spirit.

This account gives us a combination of three miracles, Jesus walking upon a stormy sea, Paul joining the Lord by walking on the troubled water, and then again commanding the storm to cease. Jesus again rebukes the disciples for their doubt and lack of faith.

This miracle differs from the previous miracle as the disciples no longer doubt the identity of Jesus, as all on the boat by worshipping him as the Son of God.

The lesson from Matthew’s account is that we should seek the light of Jesus, as only the Lord can provide us with the safety that allows us to lie down and sleep in peace, as is indicated in Psalm 4:6-8 (ESV):

Answer Me When I Call

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we are justified by our faith and reconciled so that we have peace with God, through His Son, Christ Jesus, as we read in  Paul’s gospel, Romans 5:1 (ESV):

 Peace with God Through Faith

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #401: When Peace Like a River Attendeth                                                                                                                                                                                Benediction – (Colossians 3:15):

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Know Jesus, Know Peace!

Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross 2018

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross 2018’

© November 11, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 11, 2018

Based On Messages Shared at BLCF on Nov. 11, 2012, and Nov. 8, 2015

BLCF Bulletin November 8, 2015

Moment of Silence – Lest We Forget 11-11-2018; O Canada 

  

  Official lyrics of “O Canada” (English Version 2018)                   

O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free!     

From far and wide,      

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.    

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/anthems-canada.html#a1

Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                           

Opening Hymn #99: Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners; Choruses                            

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                        

Responsive Reading #671: God’s Love and Ours (1 John 4)                                    

Message by Steve Mickelson:                   

 ‘Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross 2018’

Let us pray…

The lesson for this Sunday is a study of two symbols of remembrance of sacrifice on our behalf: the poppy and the cross.

I stand before you with one of these symbols, the poppy, pinned above my heart, while illuminated behind me is the other, which is the cross.

Today we have the opportunity to observe, with the aid of the poppy, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, signifying the anniversary of  Armistice Day, which is the day that the Armistice was signed in 1918 to end World War I, ironically called “the war to end all wars”. Sadly, 100 years after the signing the 1918 Armistice wars still happen around the world.

Today, the date is called Remembrance Day in Canada and Britain and Veterans Day in the United States. For us, Remembrance Day is a day where we remember all who died not only in this war but in all other conflicts, to both preserve and protect our democratic freedom and way of life in Canada.

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship - BLCf Church Way of the Cross

We, in the Christian Church, also have a symbol no less important. It’s the Cross of Jesus. One of His great sayings is:

‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’            – John 15:13 (ESV).

And that is what Christ did for us.

Two great symbols of sacrifice are the Poppy and the Cross.

What is so special about a poppy on Remembrance Day? Why not use a pansy? Scarlet poppies grow naturally in conditions of the disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century, transformed the bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as the First World War raged through Europe’s heart.

The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realized by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in the First World War and later conflicts. Here are John McCrae’s words:

In Flanders Fields – John McCrae 

John McCrae in uniform circa 1914

 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

When fighting ceased in 1918 the mud of the battlefields was allowed to rest. Nature began to restore the landscape. Before long, the wildflowers grew and bloomed, including the poppy. The colour of red reminds people of bloodshed and the sacrifice by millions of brave soldiers of their lives. And so the poppy became the symbol of sacrifice.

It is a known fact that people are creatures with the capacity to forget personal pain and suffering. Otherwise, women, for example, would be less likely to have more than one child, after having experienced the labour of the first and all of us would be unable to cope with the loss of loved ones. With the passage of time, the memory of the harsh reality of death diminishes and fades with each successive generation, becoming little more than the image of faded photographs or hollow words to a nearly forgotten poem.

That is why it is important to take a minute of silence to reflect and pray for those men and women who sacrificed their lives both in a distant place and time and in times current so that we may enjoy a relatively free and safe life today in Canada. We read the poem ’In Flanders Fields’, where see that even in the deadly field of battle, God transforms the trenches of death with a tapestry of red flowers and the song of meadowlarks, providing the promise of hope reminiscent of that given by His rainbow and dove with the olive branch after the great flood.

On this Remembrance Day, let us also remember the fallen innocents in past conflicts as well: the civilians who were killed in wars and conflicts, as well as the persecuted victims of purges and holocausts. And, we should remember the families of the fallen, for the pain of the loss of a loved one. Finally, we honour those who returned from battle and war, with the memory of death and destruction etched in their memories.

Some of you may still remember a member of our congregation, our friend Leo, a kindly brother in Christ, who sought to share the love of Christ with his brothers and sisters. I remember, when I had applied to work as an operator at the TTC, Leo commented to me, that after the World War II, he was hired by the TTC and trained to drive a street car. He remarked that as a result of the war, the stress of driving was too great for him, and he left the TTC to work as a carrier with Canada Post.

At Leo’s funeral, the chapel was almost evenly divided between sad, grieving uniformed postal carriers, members of the military and police officers on one side of the chapel; with happy Christian believers on the other. While the former mourned the death of a friend, the latter celebrated the fact that another Christian has gone home to be with Jesus at the Lord’s Resurrection.

While Leo did not give his life in war for his country, he did give his life as a living sacrifice unto his Lord. We see that the poppy represents the mourning for those who sacrificed themselves in battles, police actions and conflicts, which continue to this day. By contrast, Jesus gave his life as the final sacrifice for our judgment for sin, which we celebrate and observe continuously, by means prayer, song, Scripture and with the regular observance of Communion.

The poppy reminds us of the sacrificed lives in battles over the years past, present, and future. By contrast, the cross reminds us of the Lord’s single act of sacrifice and love for all generations, past, present, and future, John 15:10-13 (ESV):

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

The cross symbolizes not only how Jesus sanctifies us from sin, but it is also a symbol of God’s New Covenant of eternal life and is an emblem of His love for us. We are implored to take heart and find joy in the Lord’s gift to us, which are the rewards for our faith, John 16:23-33 (ESV):

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

I Have Overcome the World

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.[a] 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Footnotes: a. John 16:27 Some manuscripts from the Father

In addition to the cross, we are instructed by the scriptures to remember the sacrifice of Jesus through the act of communion, until Jesus returns. This points to the main difference between the soldier’s sacrifice to give us freedom as Canadians and Jesus’ sacrifice to give us freedom from sin, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the resurrection. It is our responsibility as members of Canadian society to honour the soldier’s sacrifice for a peace from a war that is temporary, as long sin exists, we will continue to have war. As believers in the resurrected Christ, our trust and faith in our Savior’s sacrifice which does not end sin, but the consequences of sin: judgment and death, Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV):

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #81: All Praise to Him Who Reigns Above

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21):

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’ 

© November 4, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 4, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

Opening Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I should Gain; Choruses                            

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                          

Responsive Reading #662: Freedom from Sin (Romans 5 and 6)                           

Message by Steve Mickelson:  

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’  

                                

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this, the first Sunday of November 2018. For those of you gathered here this morning, congratulations for having set your clocks back an hour, in order to make the change from Daylight Savings to Standard time. Please be kind to those who arrive in an hour, as they may have forgotten about the time change. Today, being the first Sunday of the month makes it a Communion Sunday. We invite all present, who believe that Jesus is the Son of God died on the cross to pay the penalty for our, to join us in partaking the elements of Communion. There is no BLCF Church membership requirement to take Communion, only the conviction that Christ, Jesus is Lord and Saviour, who died for your sins, rose from the grave by the power of the Spirit, ascended to heaven, sending us the Holy Spirit to be our companion, forever.

When we talk about taking Communion, we remember the sacrifice of the Lord, whose death on the cross resulted in the forgiveness of all sin, allowed us, by way of faith, the means to avoid the judgment for sin. Jesus came not to fulfill the Law, but to fulfill the judgment mandated by the law, by surrendering his life as a payment for the death judgment awaiting us all.

In John 8, verses 1-11, we have an account how the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman, caught in the act of adultery, asking Jesus how they should deal with her crime, as the Law stipulated death by stoning. This was intended to be not only a test of Jesus’ knowledge of Hebrew Law and the consequences one may expect for violating it. Let us begin today’s lesson reading this passage from John’s Gospel:

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

These eleven verses, from the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, provide us with a wealth of knowledge and understanding how violation of the Law, in this case, the seventh of the ten itemized in Exodus 20. In this case Exodus 20:14, 14 “You shall not commit adultery.

The woman had broken the Law and the scribes, Pharisees, and others gathered expected a pronouncement of death to the woman. This was the same judgment that the people of Israel expected when Moses brought the Laws from God down from the mountain, Exodus 20:18-21 (ESV):

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid[a] and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Exodus 20:18 Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Masoretic Text the people saw

These Laws came from God to instill a respect of God’s ordinances, and an avoidance of sin by the people, so as to not have Him render judgment upon them. But the people feared that if they heard God speak to them, that they will surely die. The Law was intended to guide the people on a righteous path of behaviour, to demonstrate their love for God and for others.

In the case of Jesus and the adulteress, Jesus indicated that no man or woman is innocent of sin, and therefore none are qualified to act as judge and executioner. That is God’s privy, and as such, He alone has the authority to render judgment or its consequences upon sinners. This does not mean that there won’t be any judgment for violation of the Law, which will be rendered by God, alone.

Did scribes and Pharisees take the words of our Lord to heart? Apparently not, as we see the actions taken against the Apostle Stephen, whom Christian scholars are considered to be the first Christian martyr, as we see in this account taken from Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 7:54-60 (ESV): The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Footnotes:a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Though Jesus had been sent to pay the penalty for sin, we that human tendency to sin had not eliminated. Though Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, in that he saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of God, the Father, the lord did not intervene. Stephen’s last words before he died were a plea to the Lord not to hold the sin of murder against them. You may note that watching the garments of the murderous mob, was a young man named Saul, better known as Saul of Tarsus.

Saul’s testimony on the matter is recorded in Acts 22:1-21:

Acts 22:1-21 (ESV)

22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language,[a] they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:2 Or the Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic) b.Acts 22:3 Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated c. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

We see that before his conversion Saul had busied himself by rounding up and persecuting Christians. And in the process of one of the first persecutions, Saul witnessed Stephen’s death by stoning while he stood by watching over the garments of the members of the crowd who killed the Apostle.

But why was there no judgment from God against Saul or the mob who had murdered Stephen?  God had no plans for members of the mob in general, he did have plans for Saul, whose name would be changed to Paul, after his conversion. We see the degree of conviction demonstrated in Paul’s testimony, expressed in the following epistle addressed by the Apostle to members of the Church in Rome, see Romans 10:9-10:

Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Paul said that salvation comes to those who confess that Jesus is Lord, whom God raised from the dead. This confession comes not from a fear of a judgment by God, but a belief in the heart that Jesus died and was raised from the dead. We know from last week’s lesson, that the heart is associated with the intangible aspect of our beliefs, such as love, faith, and hope. With this belief, comes the tangible response of confession of our belief that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins. And from that expression of faith, God will respond to the tangible sacrifice made by His Son on the cross with the intangible actions of our own justification and salvation through Christ, which in turn leads to the tangible actions of our own resurrection and granted eternal life.

All of God’s actions come as an expression of God’s love for us for us and our love for Him. For only He is able to make manifest the tangible from the intangible, merely by His own Word.

Let us pray…

Responsive reading #663: Communion Observance (1 Corinthians 11)         

Closing Hymn #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

Benediction – (1 Timothy 1:17): 

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible’

 © October 28, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message shared with BLCF Church, on June 12, 2016

BLCF Bulletin June 12, 2016

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                       

Opening Hymn #199: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship; Choruses

Prayer Requests and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Prayers

Responsive Reading #594: God’s Commandments (-from Exodus 20 and Matthew 22)                                                                                                                     

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                  ‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible

Let us pray…

There is a challenge to the Christian Church today, especially as completing Christ’s Gospel, unto the ends of the earth. It can be a challenge to demonstrate to other people who dwell in a tangible world, the reality of a God who may seem to have an intangible existence.

But before we begin today’s lesson: ‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible’, let us check a definition of terms used within today’s lesson. The first is from dictionary.com:

Tangible – 1580-90; < Late Latin tangibilis, equivalent to Latin tang (ere) to touch + -ibilis -ible

adjective

  1. capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial.
  2. real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary: the tangible benefits of sunshine.
  3. definite; not vague or elusive: no tangible grounds for suspicion.
  4. (of an asset) having actual physical existence, as real estate or chattels, and therefore capable of being assigned a value in monetary terms.

noun

  1. something tangible, especially a tangible asset.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/tangible

intangible

adjective

  1. not tangible; incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch, as incorporeal or immaterial things; impalpable.
  2. not definite or clear to the mind: intangible arguments.
  3. (of an asset) existing only in connection with something else, as the goodwill of a business.

noun

  1. something intangible, especially an intangible asset: Intangibles are hard to value.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intangible

For bookkeepers and accountants, who must balance ledgers and deal with assets that are either tangible or intangible. Sometimes the intangible assets are called goodwill assets. The interesting aspect of a tangible asset is that it depreciates each year so that after several years, the tangible asset no longer has any book value. By contrast, intangible assets hold their value and very often grow in value over time. Consider the trademark for McDonald’s Restaurants, the double arches. The value of this intangible asset is far more valuable today than when the trademark was first adopted:

Q: What is the difference between goodwill and tangible assets?

By Investopedia | January 8, 2015 — 2:11 AM EST

A: Companies can own two type of assets: tangible and intangible. Tangible assets are assets that take physical form. These are made up of fixed assets, such as buildings, vehicles and machinery. They are also composed of current assets, which include cash and inventory. Goodwill is a form of intangible asset, along with the likes of contracts and patents. Although an intangible asset does not have a physical form, it still provides value to the company. Tangible assets are far easier to liquidate than intangible assets; machinery and buildings have a secondary market.

Goodwill is created as the result of the purchase of one company by another at a premium. It represents the difference between the price paid by the purchaser and the target company’s book value. It reflects the premium paid for a company’s reputation, technology, brands and other less tangible attributes.

Given that goodwill arises as a residual portion of the purchase price, it cannot be measured directly. It can be independently appraised on assumptions based on the excess value of the business being purchased.

For tangible assets, if there is an anticipated useful life of more than one year, then there is a requirement for the assets’ worth to be depreciated over their useful lives. Prior to 2001, accounting rules required goodwill to be amortized over a period of up to 40 years. However, in 2001, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued an accounting pronouncement that ended automatic amortization of goodwill. As a result, goodwill is now measured annually to determine whether there has been an impairment loss. If there is no impairment, goodwill can remain on a company’s balance sheet indefinitely.

http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/010815/what-difference-between-goodwill-and-tangible-assets.asp

Thinking of the phrase “Peace on Earth to men of goodwill” makes me consider how the growth of believers or the faith of Christians, that is the growth of this goodwill or intangible aspect of Christ’s Gospel message, adopted by members of Christ’s Church, which continues to accumulate and grow over time, unaffected by the rules of depreciation that occur if these assets were tangible in nature.

We know that there is the promise, that where two or more are gathered in the Lord’s name, then He is there in Spirit. I believe this call indicates that two or more people are gathered together in His name, then He will be there in the Spirit, indicates how the Spirit rewards those believers who gather and call on the Lord, as we find in BLCF at each Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service, as well at Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study, and at other functions of BLCF Church. By definition, the Church is comprised of the believers who assemble together in this space.

Often non-believers, and some believers – remember Thomas, the disciple, seek tangible proof of the Gospel of Jesus, including Christ’s resurrection and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

It could be argued that radio and television broadcasts, though enriching to the viewers, may find that the Spirit is not present to the viewers, as viewers are not gathered with each other physically in the virtual reality of a televised setting. What a televised or radio church service lacks is the interaction or dialog between the viewers and those gathered at the broadcast. The same issue occurs when one views a church service recorded on DVD, digital file, or streamed on the internet. While viewing a broadcast or recorded church gathering may be inspiring, the viewers are technically not assembled or gathered at the place where the broadcast originates.

Then there is the problem of the time delay of the broadcast. Even a so-called “live” telecast may be delayed some seconds or minutes to the viewers. Some broadcasts are recorded and broadcasted some hours, days, months or years later. It is possible that the minister and parts of the congregation may have passed away and have been called home to the Lord, which means that while the viewer may think that he or she is participating in a “live’ service with other living participants; the others only exist in image format.

Let us not get off on a tangent, which an expression that had its roots in mathematics, to describe a situation where we lose touch with the substance of our discussion. Let us look at our first Scripture passage, from  Jeremiah 2:1-22,  where the people of Israel forsake God, to worship tangible idols and non-existent gods such as Baal:

  Jeremiah 2:1-22 (ESV): Israel Forsakes the Lord

2 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 

 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord,

“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the Lord.”

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:

“What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’

And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.                                                                                                                   

The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’  Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds[a] transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.

“Therefore I still contend with you, declares the Lord, and with your children’s children I will contend.10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing. 11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.

12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord,13 for my people have committed two evils:                                                                                                                 

they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

14 “Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant? Why then has he become a prey? 15 The lions have roared against him; they have roared loudly. They have made his land a waste; his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.16 Moreover, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes have shaved[b] the crown of your head. 17 Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, when he led you in the way?

18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?[c] 19 Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts.

20 “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.

21 Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? 22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.

Footnotes: a. Jeremiah 2:8 Or rulers b. Jeremiah 2:16 Hebrew grazed c. Jeremiah 2:18 Hebrew the River

The Gospel of Christ is filled with intangibles such as love, faith, hope, sin, guilt, worship, prayer, forgiveness, sanctification and God’s Covenants. Then there are some of the tangible aspects of Jesus which include: the crucifixion, the Scriptures, providing for the needs of the poor, the partaking of the elements of communion.

Now there is a third category, which I would like to  describe as physical or tangible expressions of our intangible God: the miracles, including the Word, Made Flesh, the Resurrection of Christ, the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit to every believer, as well our promised resurrection and eternal life with the Lord.

Hebrews 12:18-29 (ESV): A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 12:23 Or church

The Kingdom of God is not of this world and therefore not subject to the destruction that occurs to structures and other tangibles, today.

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV): The Great Commandment

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Of all the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses for the People of Israel, the two that Jesus spoke about describe an intangible aspect of our relationship with God and our neighbor, which is love. Love is not subject to worldly influences. The other Eight Commandments deal with property, and physical tangible aspects of our relationships, which makes them of lesser importance than how we deal with our God and neighbor. If we apply love to any or all of the Ten Commandments, we would expect a positive outcome in our relationship with God, except for the issue of sin.

Sin inhibits our ability to successfully adhere to or follow the Ten Commandments. In this regard, all of us fail and fall short of God’s glory. However, God loved us so much, that He gave us His only Son, Jesus as a propitiation for sin. While Jesus’ sacrifice does not eliminate sin, it takes away the judgment of death for sin. In place of death of the death penalty, God makes provision for the final sacrifice by way of Jesus’ death on the cross. And the resurrected Christ, who ascended to heaven leads to the gifting of the companion of the Holy Spirit. We see that each stage of salvation and reconciliation has a tangible and intangible aspect. Christ was born,  he ministers, then died, was resurrected from death and ascended to heaven, all are tangibles. And all of these aspects of Christ’s Gospel are impossible without the intangible Godly attributes of love, compassion, faith, hope, and the Spirit’s influence.

John 1:14 (ESV): Word Made Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #374: Take Thou Our Minds, Dear Lord

Benediction – (Romans 12:2): Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.